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Roles

  • Posted on September 12, 2014 at 10:00 AM

We all assume roles in our lives. We’re parents, children, students, employees, professionals, and more. Some of us are advocates. Whatever our other roles may be, we choose to engage in advocacy in order to change the outcomes we experience and to improve the outcomes others will experience. We want the world to learn from what went wrong in our own lives.

In First Things First, Stephen Covey and his co-authors instruct us that the limits of the mind indicate we can best organize our lives around seven roles, plus the role we owe ourselves, which they call sharpening the saw.

With such a limit, I’ve devised the following roles:

  1. Mother: I will nurture and care for my children, enriching and empowering them to become the people they are meant to be.
  2. Wife: I will build a resilient, satisfying, and loving marriage with my husband.
  3. Builder/Servant: I will rely on my loving Heavenly Father to open the way for me to answer the callings He gives me, while I do everything in my power to build a righteous, faithful life on the Rock of His salvation and to endure well to the end.
  4. Marketer: I will build satisfying, sustaining, long-term business relationships with clients that deliver their products and services with honor and integrity by providing high-quality written and consultative services and by delivering them with honor and integrity.
  5. Writer: I will uplift other writers in such a way that I empower and inspire them to live their dreams.
  6. Advocate: I will build a peaceful and sustaining community of advocates to serve people with neurological differences and disabilities, that the people we serve may be enriched, employed, and empowered.
  7. Student: I will excel in my field(s) of study and earn my degree(s).

There are certainly other roles I could have, but most of those activities would fall under another umbrella. This way I emphasize what is most important for me to do with my time, my energy, and my life.

What are your roles?

Still Progress

  • Posted on July 16, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Two steps forward, one step back. It’s not the kind of progress I want, but it’s still progress.

Willy got sick. He felt unwell for less than 24 hours. I got sick, too. I felt unwell for three days. Neither is particularly unusual. Willy has a robust immune system. I don’t. Willy inherited his from his father.

So far, neither Ben nor Alex has shown any signs of illness, though I suspect my mom might have it. Willy had gone over to her house to play, ended up getting sick, and then spent the night. Still, I was the one who came down with it second, after Willy. If my mom got it, she waited a few days before showing signs of it.

I may have been exposed earlier than her, but neither Mark nor the younger boys are showing any signs of it. It comes down to my physical weakness. It was a rather mild illness, as far as those things go, consisting of headache, a slight fever, and nausea. The weakness lingered for me, forcing me to sleep even though I was too comfortable to sleep well.

I had just gotten back on track to where I wanted to be, then I got sick—and I was forced to sleep—and got shoved off track again. My battle with my to-do lists is so tenuous it doesn’t take much. Losing a single day sets me off track. Losing three… *sigh*

The only thing that’s saving me right now is that I wasn’t going at my full pace. I wasn’t even trying to be full-time. So, in that sense, it should be easier to catch up. Of course, the reason I wasn’t going full-time was because I don’t have the strength for it, so I doubt I have the strength to “catch up” either.

Two steps forward, one step back. It’s still progress, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Speaking of Progress

  • Posted on July 11, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Having surgery, then sleeping through a good portion of my recovery, gave me something of a power boost. I felt better than I have in a long time. My mind was clearer, at least for a little while. After I came back to work full-time, I realized two things:

  • First, the time I put in when I could only work part-time wasn’t as clear, coherent, or organized as it seemed at the time.
  • Second, my priorities had shifted because I’d had plenty of time to consider what was going well, what wasn’t, and what I could do about it.

I cleaned up my messes. I cleared up my backlogs. Now, I’m feeling like I’m really and truly back. I’m ready to walk my walk and make it work. My priorities truly have shifted.

I’m going to keep these shifts close to the vest, but I’ll give you a hint…I’ve talked about doing this before, but then I lost track of it. I’m starting fresh, breaking free, and doing a little cheating.

It’ll make sense in time. For now, I’m just going to enjoy being back and keeping my little secret. :)

Recovery-In-Progress

  • Posted on July 9, 2014 at 10:00 AM

So, I went to my post-surgery check-up, but the surgeon wasn’t there. I don’t know why I thought he would be. Instead, I met with another assistant. She checked out my incisions, but other than that the check-up was all verbal. I told her what I had experienced, good and bad, with my recovery thus far. She was pleased with my progress.

Her informed assessment, however, was something of an obvious conclusion. I’ve had too much stress. On the one hand, my life is stressful. This is seen as being particularly true whenever I bring up the boys. I brought up the boys to make the point that I’ve spent too much time putting their health (and educational) needs first; and that I’ve been putting my own health on the backburner for far too long. Her point was “Wow, three with autism, that’s got to be stressful all by itself.” Hm. Yes, I suppose it is, but not nearly as much as people might think, especially now that we’ve figured out what works for them.

On the other hand, she also made a point of stating that my body has been under particular stress lately. My crash or flare up, my diagnoses, my sleep issues, and now surgery – there is absolutely no “wondering why” I’m physically fatigued. No matter how much I may want to accelerate this process, and just be better already so I get back to things that matter, the fact is that my body is still healing, still recovering, and that this matters, too.

There’s so much I want to do…but if I focus on that, instead of on what I can actually do right now in this given moment, then I just add to my stress unnecessarily. For some, this might seem self-evident and obvious. For me, it’s kind of revolutionary. My idea has generally been: “Get through this as quickly and thoroughly as possible, so I can get on to the next thing.” It’s not that I am in such a hurry that I forsake quality, because that isn’t effective. It’s that I’m so focused on doing as much as possible that I’m actually reducing what I’m capable of because too much of my energy and focus is spent worrying over or planning for things I can’t do yet.

Here I am trying to recover, trying to build my capacity, and I’m eroding my good intentions with unnecessary stress. [Grumble, grumble.] I swear I’m going to get this balance thing right one of these days.

Not What I Expected – Part 1

  • Posted on June 26, 2014 at 10:00 AM

When I woke up Tuesday, still in pain, I expected something…but this wasn’t it. Have you ever looked back on a day in your life and known God was there?

It started many years ago. During the third trimester of my third pregnancy, I was plagued with “false labor pains.” This didn’t seem at all extraordinary until I needed to be induced in order to deliver my son early, because he wasn’t growing in the womb. I started at a zero. At the time, I didn’t think much of it – being rather worried and in pain – but if I were really having “false labor pains,” then shouldn’t I have been at least a little dilated?

My “false labor pains” became extraordinary when they continued after my son was born and kept coming after my uterus had resumed its normal, contracted position. It was during a severe, three-day bout of this inexplicable pain that my mother took me to the doctor. He tried to dismiss it as a “back strain” due to a recent pregnancy (or three) and my excessive weight. I was curled in on myself, assuming as close to a fetal position as could be obtained in a hard plastic chair, so I was not able to advocate for myself at the time. My mother, not so encumbered, pointed at me and screeched, “She’s crying. She never cries. You’re going to do something!”

So, I was sent down for an X-ray. I tried to lay myself flat for the X-ray, but couldn’t quite do it. The technician just shook his head and said, “She shouldn’t be here. She should be in ultrasound. It’s her gall bladder, not her back.” Turns out he was right. I was given a prescription for oxycodone and a referral to a surgeon. The surgeon explained that I would have a six-week recovery after the surgery during which I could lift no more than 15 lbs. and that I was not to allow any little person climb or lay on my abdomen. That nixed that, and so I stuck to homeopathic treatments (sarsaparilla), recommended by an Internet friend who lived in India, and I was “fine” for years. There were occasional bouts of pain, when stones passed, but the duration was short and the treatments helped. It was manageable.

All of that change last Friday night. A “gall bladder attack” started and it seemed like normal, except that it continued on into Saturday, and then into Sunday. On and off, it continued through Monday. Except, it wasn’t just continuing, the pain was getting worse in little leaps. Tuesday morning, I’d had enough. Things were different now. I expected to go into the doctor, get my prescription for pain medication, get my referral, and schedule surgery for some time later in the week or maybe next week. But that’s not what happened.

I was going to get some sleep, if I could, and call that afternoon, but I couldn’t sleep and I felt a strong need to call right away. I called for my appointment and discovered that my doctor was only in the office during the mornings today (Tuesday). He could see me at 9:45, but he would have been gone if I’d waited. So, I got myself ready and arrived early for my appointment.

I explained what I’d been experiencing to the nurse and then again to the doctor. This facility uses a 0 – 10 pain scale, complete with happy faces and very unhappy faces. To put this in perspective, giving birth usually comes out at an 8 for me, which is fine considering that I get a baby out of the deal. Untreated fibromyalgia, at its worst, is a solid 7; with treatment, it’s a manageable 5 to 6. My broken wrist was my only 9. My previous “gall bladder attacks,” as I called them, were solid 8s – with no baby as a reward. This doctor was the same doctor I’d been seeing since shortly after Ben was born. He’s a good doctor who listens and cares and responds with as little prescribed medication as possible, which is something both Mark and I appreciate. He knew me and knew that I wasn’t prone to exaggeration (at least not during medical appointments) and he knew I would avoid narcotics whenever possible. So, when I told him that my pain was at a 9, he took me seriously.

He had me lay down and he probed my stomach. He stood back a little and had me sit up. He watched while I did so. He looked at me thoughtfully and he responded honestly. He told me that my responses didn’t correspond with a “gall bladder attack,” i.e. it didn’t seem to him like I was passing stones. He also said, almost to himself, “the disease doesn’t follow the book.” He wrote down on a piece of scratch paper some OTCs (over the counter medications) and handed it to me. “This is what I would give you,” he said, “but a 9. You say it’s a 9?” Then, again to himself, “Must have a high pain tolerance or there would be more reaction.”

While he ruminated over what to do, I thought to myself, Well, I didn’t think screaming when you pressed down would help matters any. I was no longer the young woman who would curl up into a ball in a plastic chair and let my mother handle things. I was my own woman; so yeah, call it high pain tolerance or, better yet, self-control. It didn’t mean the pain wasn’t a 9.

This doctor knew me and that’s why I didn’t just go to the emergency room. He knew something must be wrong, even if he didn’t know right away what it might be. So, he sent me to the hospital to get a CAT scan, with the understanding that the OTCs would hold if they didn’t find anything. The plan, as far as I knew, was for me to get the CAT scan and to go home and wait for his call. That’s what I was expecting, but that’s not what happened.

The Trouble with Self Actualization

  • Posted on June 11, 2014 at 10:00 AM

I’ve often looked at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and been proud of the fact that I was pursuing self-actualization.

Image from http://www.simplypsychology.org/Hierarchyofneeds.jpg

I have often sought to fulfill my creativity and pursue my talents. Yet, it’s called a “Hierarchy” for a reason. According to Maslow’s theory, you’re supposed to pursue these things in order and I’ve never been very good at that. Now, from what I understand, Maslow’s hierarchy hasn’t held up against professional academic scrutiny and study. This is probably at least partially due to the fact that you can pursue needs out of order. But still, there are reasons that certain needs are fundamental to survival.

When it comes to personal pursuits, striving for self-actualization is not at all a bad thing. When it comes to raising a family, then providing for physiological needs, safety needs, and belonging needs is a pretty big deal. It’s a big part of the job of the parent.

If your priorities get out of order, it can become difficult to choose to meet physiological or safety needs, when you want to skip up to mastery and creativity. It takes balance. I keep reminding myself of that.

Life Leadership

  • Posted on June 6, 2014 at 10:00 AM

With capacity-building in mind, I decided to use some of this “downtime” to crack open some of the self-help books I’ve been stockpiling. I decided to start with First Things First by Stephen Covey, in the hopes that the title’s onto something.

In the first chapter, Covey says, “Fundamental to putting first things first in our lives is leadership before management: ‘Am I doing the right things?’ before ‘Am I doing things right?’” (pages 27-28 of the 2003 edition)

While I haven’t gotten much past this quote yet, the idea is to engage in life leadership instead of time management, or, perhaps, along with time management. I’m not really sure yet.

I am frequently guilty of letting life lead me around by the nose. I try to do the right things, but that effort doesn’t pervade the entirety of my life. Mostly, I try to adhere to the right ideas: people over possessions, love over hate, put your back into, etc.

I’ve spent a lot of time building towards my dreams: get married and have children, become a published author, change the world. I’ve spent a lot less time, at least as far as results go, ensuring that I have the foundation to pursue these dreams. Things like earning a sufficient living come to mind here.

I’ve learned a measure of practicality over the years, but the thing is that I have to learn it. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m a dreamer. I’m comfortable with being a dreamer. But I’m uncomfortable with the reality that results from spending too much of my time away from the practical realities of my life.

Part of me wonders if the idea of life leadership will help me balance the two, resulting in a practical dreamer. Or if the idea is better suited to helping practical people embracing the dreamer locked within…letting him or her come out to play more frequently.

My dreamer-self has already set the course; now I need a practical captain to steer the ship. How do I become that captain?

Taking Care of Mama

  • Posted on June 4, 2014 at 10:00 AM

The idea is that if I take care of myself, I will then have the capacity to take better care of my family. That’s the idea and I’ve tried to accept it. But it hasn’t ever really stuck. I’m in the habit of running myself ragged, because there’s always more to do than I can possibly get done. I keep it up until I can’t any more, and then I crash and burn. I vow to change, pick myself up, dust off the ashes, and start all over again.

This doesn’t really work.

By failing to take care of myself, I end up failing to take care of my family. I end up with a longer, more unwieldy To Do list and less capacity to do it with. I get further and further behind. I become more and more vulnerable to depression. The overall effect is disastrous levels of suckage. Simply put, it stinks. But I am stuck.

The key for me is to think about capacity.

If I don’t safeguard my capacity, then I won’t be able to take care of my family in the present. If I don’t build my capacity, then I won’t be able to do the things I want to do in the future. In order to safeguard and build my capacity, I have to take care of myself. My health must come first, next my family, then my (paying) work, and finally my dreams. Throw in a dash of fun and a dollop of sleep and I should have a winning recipe, not that I cook or even want to learn how. The point is that sometimes putting things in order requires less busy hands and more purposeful patience.

So, here’s to taking care of mama: a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down, but a mindful look to my own reality is what makes me swallow.

Day by Day

  • Posted on June 2, 2014 at 10:00 AM

I am a planner at heart. I like to look into the possible futures and map out a plan to navigate through those futures in the hopes that I will achieve the future I want.

There are two fundamental problems with this:

  1. I am not actually in control of what happens in my present, let alone in my future.
  2. I am not very good at predicting how much energy I will have to devote to a given set of tasks on a given day, which makes it hard to plan for the variables.

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus Christ says, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” (Matthew 6:34).  I do take thought for the morrow. I can’t help it; at least, I do not yet know how to help it. I worry, I plan, and I strategize. Unfortunately, all my plans and strategies are for naught. No matter how much I plan, I cannot control the future. Sometimes my worries come to pass, but even those don’t mean what I expected.

One variable that has long been out of my control is my sleep pattern, rather my lack of a sleep pattern. I’m working on this in the present, and in the future I expect help from sleep specialists. In the meantime, I’m not sure when I’ll be asleep and when I’ll be awake on any given day. All I’m really sure about is that I won’t get enough sleep no matter what I do. Even if I do get enough sleep on a particular day, the pattern won’t last out the entire week.

But, for this day, I am awake during the day. I’ll probably take a nap, because I woke up at 3 a.m., but at least I’ll be awake for part of the day. I’m committed to taking this day as it comes. I do have a plan – there’s work I want to get done – but I’m not going to let my plans interfere with the rhythm God sets for my day.

Living life day-by-day is a bit different for me, but if that’s what I need to do to get healthy, then that’s what I’ll do. And I’m not going to apologize for it or feel guilty over the things I don’t get done. This day will be enough for this day. Tomorrow and all the tomorrows after it will just have to take care of themselves.